Do you use charts and forms in your genealogy research? If you don’t already do it, you should. There are numerous reasons why. Some of the most important are for joining lineage societies, for sending copies of your work on certain family lines to relatives and genetic cousins who may be interested in it or ask for it, and for keeping a physical copy of your research off of the Internet, so you never lose your work no matter what happens to the digital world.
There are two basic types of genealogy charts: the ancestral chart and the family group sheet. As for forms, you can get blank copies of census forms, immigration forms, and military forms.
The forms are useful in their blank state, even though you can find the original, filled out copies of most of them online. This is because of the typed portions on those forms, the sections that say what information is being given, is not always clear on the online copies. When you print out a blank form, you can read the information more easily, and so better interpret the data it is giving you.
Here are what you can do with the charts:
These are like family trees on paper. You can print out charts to include as many generations as will fit on a piece of paper. Or, you can print out several charts, tape them together, and make one large family tree with dozens of generations, which I did one year as a gift for a family member (and framed it). You can write the information in by hand, or type it onto the tree online before printing it. These make wonderful gifts, and excellent ways to keep your research safe in an offline location. Most ancestral charts include room for dates of birth, death, and marriage for at least the first few generations, but deeper generations usually only have room for the name. It all depends on the chart, but that is the most common format.
You can also choose from fan charts, circle charts, and traditional tree charts, depending on your preference. These charts can easily become family heirlooms if you frame them and care for them well.
Family Group Sheets:
These are what you will need if you want to join a lineage society. A family group sheet is a genealogical chart that allows you to show information for one generation of a family. There will be places to include names, places, and dates for the married couple, then the same information for their children. By printing out several family group sheets, and attaching them together along with proof of the information you are presenting, you can show a lineage society how you are connected to the qualifying ancestor.
Family group sheets are also useful research tools to take with you into the field when you are doing genealogy away from your computer. If you are in a library, historical society, or archives, and do not have a laptop to bring with you, or just didn’t bring it for some reason, you can rely on your family group sheets to keep you on the right track with your research. You can write new information onto them, and, because you can always print out more, new information that is written in is easily added to those new sheets.
Both ancestral charts and family group sheets are also useful to send family history information on specific lines to your known relatives, and relatives you meet online while doing your genealogical research.
Downloading and Saving Genealogical Charts and Forms
You can get all of the genealogical charts and forms I have discussed on this website.
Click on the chart or form you want to use, then save it as a PDF to your computer’s desktop. Print it out, then fill it out however you like. Alternately, you can type on the form on your computer if you have the software necessary to type on a PDF form. If you type directly on it, you can then re-save it to your desktop, and then move it into the appropriate genealogical folder on your computer, according to however you are organizing your digital genealogy research.
If you print it out and fill it out by hand, you will then need to scan it and re-save it to your computer. Save it as a PDF or a JPG, and move it into the appropriate genealogical folder on your computer. Whenever you need the charts or forms, you can pull them up on your screen, and they will be right there, next to any other genealogical research website or physical research material you may be using. If you need to send information to a family member, you can email them a copy of the appropriate chart, or print it out and mail them a physical copy of it.
As far as saving the charts goes, you can save digital copies of them on an external hard drive that you store in a place away from your house. That way, your genealogy research will always be kept safe. If you decide to print out copies of it instead, make sure you print at least two copies… one you keep at your house in your physical organizational system for your genealogy and one you keep away from your house. You always want to make sure all of your hard genealogical work is protected in case something happens to your computer or your house (or both). Saving genealogical charts in these ways ensures the safety of your research and your family history for future generations.
Once you start using genealogical charts and forms, you will see just how useful they are in many different aspects of genealogical research. You will wonder why you didn’t use them earlier when you first started your research. And, they can be fun. Using charts is one of the best ways to get kids interested in genealogy because they can see their whole family history at once, right in front of them.
Start using these charts and forms, and watch your genealogy research improve in so many good ways.
Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)